WINCHESTER — An emotionally disabled 15-year-old boy convicted as an adult for beating another 15-year-old boy on a school bus in September was sentenced to juvenile detention on Tuesday in Frederick County Circuit Court over the objections of his parents.

The victim sustained a mild to moderate concussion. The Winchester Star typically doesn’t name juveniles unless they are accused or convicted of crimes involving severe injuries or deaths.

A jury convicted the boy of malicious wounding on Dec. 10. On Tuesday, the boy received a five- to eight-month “indeterminate sentence,” meaning his incarceration could be shorter or longer, based on how authorities assess his behavior. The longest an offender can be held in a juvenile prison is until their 21st birthday.

The boy was prosecuted as an adult due to the viciousness of the approximately three-minute assault, which was filmed on the school bus surveillance video. After the victim spat at the boy for making annoying scratching sounds on the bus window, the boy punched the victim 60 to 75 times. He then elbowed him about 60 times and kicked him a few times.

In seeking imprisonment rather than allowing the boy to live at home while receiving outpatient treatment, Louis Campola, a county assistant commonwealth’s attorney, argued that the attack was part of a violent pattern by the boy. While attending Northwestern Regional Educational Programs — a school on Senseny Road that serves children in Winchester and Clarke and Frederick counties with emotional, mental or physical disabilities — the boy had several violent incidents.

The boy, who has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and bipolar disorder, has thrown chairs and pushed over desks in fits of rage at the school, according to Ralph Reese, program administrator. Reese testified that in some instances the boy scuffled with staff when they tried to restrain him. He also spit at Reese. However, Reese told Campola that the boy tries to avoid confrontations when he gets angry.

“Quite often, he will choose to leave rather than engage in disruptive behavior,” Reese said, adding that the school didn’t want to take the boy back after the school bus fight. “He has a hard time regulating his emotions.”

The boy, who has been imprisoned at the Northwestern Regional Juvenile Detention Center in Frederick County for all but a week since being arrested, had two incidents there in November. He was disciplined for cursing at staff and then flooding his cell, then he tried to throw a desk at a staff member before being restrained.

Ashleigh Morrison, the juvenile probation officer assigned to the boy’s case, testified that on a scale of low, moderate, high and very high risk of re-offending, the boy was a moderate risk. Morrison recommended he be imprisoned because incarceration offers a better balance between punishment and rehabilitation than outpatient care.

Morrison said the state Department of Juvenile Justice has vastly reformed since she was hired in 2014. She said there is now a much greater emphasis on rehabilitation through education and therapeutic treatment such as individual and family counseling. Morrison recommended an indeterminate sentence because it gives children incentive to cooperate with their treatment.

“We’re really trying to have more of a therapeutic environment rather than a punitive environment,” she said. “It’s a punitive measure to be committed to DJJ, but he also would be provided with a variety of services.”

Defense attorney Michael William Helm countered that DJJ workers are overworked and underpaid and the boy would be better off living with his parents, who have juggled their jobs to care for him and would take him to outpatient treatment.

Helm noted that because the pre-frontal cortex of the brain isn’t fully developed until the age of about 25, children act more impulsively and can’t think or function like adults. Helm said that lack of comprehension was compounded by the boy’s mental state. “Don’t punish him because he has a disability,” Helm told Judge Alexander R. Iden.

The boy’s parents testified that they believed their son deserved to be punished, but in a juvenile court and with a misdemeanor assault charge.

Campola noted that felonies like malicious wounding are permanent whether they occur in juvenile or adult court.

“No one is going to deny that the defendant suffers from a mental illness, but we have a duty to protect the community,” Campola told Iden. “This is serious stuff.”

Iden told the boy that while he has supportive parents, juvenile prison was the most appropriate punishment.

“You did something wrong,” he said. “There has to be punishment and consequences.”

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

(20) comments

Ping

He does sound out of control to me. I wouldn't want my child on a bus with him. I don't know that I would want to be on a bus with him myself. Help is needed and warranted there.

*mental health awareness

Children with disabilities which that is what this kid has do not need to be forgotten lost or thrown away and God forbid anything happen or you know anybody that this happened to that this happens to that person this was a school bus fight the kid taunted the other kid the kid walked up and spit and the defendants face a grown-up would have punched that person out I'm sorry but you show me a case where an adult did this and they weren't sentence of probation and fines this is a child that did it sentenced as an adult and didn't get the fair shake a child does not have the ability to control themselves this child control himself more than most men would have

SRose1

By your way of thinking you must spit on people too. This kid has issues but per the principal he responds but doesn't start things. The bus did not have the properly trained personnel on board as mandated in his school bip.

Petejohn62

Of course law enforcement probation folks always think jail is better.how else would they or the state get any kickbacks???

I know first hand that "prison help" is bs and garbage

Conservative

Mental hospital. He can't function in society.

Petejohn62

And youre expert on the matter how???!!!

Conservative

Just looking at the evidence, that's all. He needs to be heavily medicated or heavily restrained. Pick one.

SRose1

Maybe you should look at all the evidence then.. So if i spit in your face or anyone elses you and everyone else would ignore it and not respond...

BillboBaggins

Do you prefer that he get care at residential mental facility or abused in the penal system?

Conservative

Mental facility, of course.

*mental health awareness

I have over 22 years in the medical field in people like you that think that people with disabilities don't belong in society or the reason that people with disabilities don't get to do what they should do or what they can do you give somebody a chance they can outshine a quote normal person I hope that nobody in your family ever has to deal with this because what would you do if it was a family member of yours would you throw them away or would you fight for that person

*mental health awareness

people with disabilities can function in normal life if they're treated fairly and given a fair trial but when they're subjected to close minded and narrow-minded people they're not in people that think that it's okay to treat somebody with a mental illness differently than what they treating normal quot-quot is wrong this child should have been given probation time served in counseling

SRose1

So if i spit in your face or anyone elses you and everyone else would ignore it and not respond...

SRose1

So the 4 months he has already been in confinement wasn't enough based on the situation.. They want another 5 to 8 months on top of that.. Wonder what an adult would have to do in order to get the same amount of time...

Clarke County Hokie

Probably beat on somebody for three minutes...

Rose08

I'm wondering if he's had these issues why was he on the bus to begin with. But we don't know his situation, was he put on meds that made him more aggressive. Hopefully he gets the help he needs.

*mental health awareness

This kid was on a bus for kids with mental and behavioral issues it wasn't a public school

*mental health awareness

and the IEP was not followed there were supposed to be somebody on the bus that could do a hold and there wasn't that is a school's fault and now this kids paying the price

SRose1

So you realize that an adult would have to be on their 3rd domestic violence charge to get a similar sentence. He received this as a 15 year old kid in response to being spit in the face.

*mental health awareness

the parents even said that he needed to be tried as a juvenile and accept his punishment he accepted that punishment he's been there since September why can't he come home be on a tether go to counseling do more intense things it seems like there is a very sited opinion in Virginia about those with mental health and kids with mental health issues have a lot of issues and they need a lot of support I feel he's done his time let him move on from this and build. putting him in jail or juvie is just going to create a monster

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